Maha Sabha: No plans to rededicate school to Moonilal

The content originally appeared on: Trinidad and Tobago Newsday

Oropouche East MP Dr Roodal Moonilal –

THE Sanatan Dharma Maha Sabha (SDMS) says there were never any plans to rededicate the Ramai Trace Hindu Primary School to Oropouche East MP Dr Roodal Moonilal, in whose constituency the school is located.

The SDMS made the comment in a statement on Thursday.

In an immediate response, Moonilal said he was unfazed by the SDMS statement, as he had more important matters to deal with.

In a signed letter on Thursday, the SDMS first assistant secretary and legal adviser Dinesh Rambally said the members of the SDMS central executive agreed to issue the statement to clarify matters related to the school.

Rambally is also UNC Chaguanas West MP.

The SDMS said it had not dealt with the matters previously because its focus was the speedy reopening of the school for the benefit of its students.

The group added that now was an appropriate time to deal with statements recycled on various social media sites, including Moonilal’s parliamentary Facebook page, about the school being rededicated to him.

But, it said, “It would be erroneous to construe our response as an attack on anyone or any entity since our focus continues to be stating the facts as they are, and for the betterment and education of children.”

The school was closed in September 2014 because of a plethora of infrastructural problems. It was reopened on December 11, 2023.

The SDMS said it deplored an attempt by some people it described as rakshasas (hooligans) to disrupt a religious ceremony at the school on February 17.

It said the people involved in that activity had an issue over the naming of the school.The SDMS publicly indicated it was open to hold civil talks with any apparently disaffected group.

“To date, not a single person has written a letter of the alphabet, a correspondence or an e-mail, WhatsApp, snail mail, telegram or anything whatsoever to raise any issue surrounding the naming of the Ramai Trace Hindu School or any matter pertaining to this.”

The SDMS said the only person who had officially approached it to rename the school “the Dr Roodal Moonilal Hindu School” was former People’s Partnership government minister Devant Maharaj.

Maharaj, the SDMS continued, claimed that its late secretary general Satnarayan Maharaj publicly pledged to rename the school after Moonilal “as a result of his financial and political support.”

The SDMS said Maharaj claimed current secretary general Vijay Maharaj and Rambally were never part of the decision to rename the school. It said that was incorrect, as the decision on renaming any school was “a process including the ratification at the central executive level.”

The SDMS said Vijay Maharaj and Rambally were not present when Sat Maharaj made his pronouncements.

After recalling some of the history behind the school, the SDMS said it had copies of cheques from different entities that wanted to acquire land near the school.

The SDMS also said its central executive held a meeting on October 2, 2013 to discuss a land purchase costing approximately $350,000.

The SDMS said some people were against renaming the school, while others felt if any politician’s name were to be included, it should have been then prime minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar.

The group added that Debe villager Beharry Mooklal, who donated the land on which the school stands, never advocated for the school to be named after him.

“Any decision to effect a change of the name of the school is solely at the discretion and decision of the SDMS executive. It has not done so and does not envisage any reason for doing so now.”

In his WhatsApp response to the SDMS statement, Moonilal said, “I have more important matters to consider. As Mrs Persad Bissessar said in Parliament – a rose by any other name is still a rose.”

He added  that when he was told about the statement, he thought it dealt with national issues such as crime.

“Subsequently I found out that the long-winded diatribe had nothing to do with the SSA (Strategic Service Agency) crisis, property tax, unemployment and other matters I am addressing on behalf of the people of TT.”

Moonilal said he reflected briefly on the statement.

“It reminded me of a 1973 Hindi movie classic starring Amitabh Bachchan and Rajesh Khanna. The movie was titled Namak Haraam, which, translated into English, means traitor.”